Siamese crocodile nest hatches

A Siamese crocodile nest with 22 eggs was discovered in the Areng Valley of Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains during monitoring patrols implemented by local Community Crocodile Wardens and FFI’s Cambodian Crocodile Conservation Programme (CCCP) on April 22.

As a precaution to reduce the risk of the nest being flooded or predated, the team implemented ‘head-start’ activities by carefully moving 15 fertilized eggs to an artificial nest in a safe location. The nest was then guarded 24 hours daily by community members from nearby villages. The team also set up a camera trap at the wild nest in hopes of capturing images of the mother guarding her nest (pictured right).

On the afternoon of 3 June, 10 hatchlings emerged from the head-start nest and three from the natural nest. In addition to the success of this nest hatching, the camera trap was also able to take what are believed to be the first photos of a wild Siamese crocodile mother guarding her nest in Cambodia (and perhaps the first in all of South East Asia).

The hatchlings

The hatchlings were observed by Sam Han, National Field Coordinator of FFI’s Cambodian Crocodile Conservation Programme (pictured right). As means to monitor the growth and health of these animals, measurements were taken and their scutes (scales on their tail) were cut in a coded fashion so that they may be identified again in the future.

“I was so excited to be there to see the newly hatched crocodiles,” said Han. “This is such a rare occasion and a truly rewarding experience given all the hard work local communities and the CCCP put into protecting this species.”

Given that new crocodile hatchlings are very vulnerable to predators, the 10 head-start hatchlings are being kept under the care of Community Crocodile Wardens in a temporary pen until they are large enough to defend themselves.

The hatchlings are a sign of hope for the species. Fewer than 250 adults are estimated to survive in the wild. However, the future is still not certain for these animals.

Cambodia’s energy demand

In order to meet Cambodia’s energy demand as it emerges from decades of war and poverty, there are plans to build a major hydroelectricity dam in the area. Such a development will flood most of the Areng River Valley, as well as critical breeding habitat for the Siamese crocodile. FFI is assisting the Cambodian Government to develop a plan for the relocation of these hatchlings to a nearby river where they will hopefully be safe.